Union calls off GNWT strike as sides ask mediator to decide

Union members rally outside a territorial government building in February 2019
Union members rally outside a territorial government building in February 2019.

There will be no strike for thousands of territorial government workers after negotiators agreed a deal at the eleventh hour.

While no tentative agreement on terms has been reached, both the Union of Northern Workers and territorial government say they will let mediator Vince Ready settle their differences.

As a result, said the territorial government in a statement released at 12:30am on Sunday, “there will be no strike by the 4,000 members of the Union of Northern Workers at the GNWT.”

The territory said Ready’s recommendations as mediator will now be binding on both parties, in effect giving the union the binding arbitration it had sought, while also allowing the territorial government to claim it had followed the process set out in legislature.



The news broke at the very last breath of more than three years of on-off, at times bitter negotiations. The previous collective agreement for GNWT workers expired in January 2016.

A deal to call off the strike followed two marathon days of negotiations, with talks heading well into the night on both Friday and Saturday.

Had no form of understanding been reached, around 2,000 non-essential unionized GNWT workers were set to walk off the job on Monday.

To many of those government workers, after days of doubt over the style and substance of their walkout, the news was certain to come as a relief.



‘We have some good news’ – UNW

An end to the threatened strike was a condition of agreeing to let Ready make binding recommendations, the territorial government said in its statement.

“The parties have agreed to submit their outstanding issues to Mr Ready for binding recommendations,” the statement read.

“The union has agreed to call off strike action scheduled to begin at 12:01am on Monday, February 11, 2019.”

The Union of Northern Workers, which later issued the same news release with identical wording, declared on a union-run Facebook page: “We have some good news about bargaining. The bargaining team will provide more information when we can.”

According to the territorial government, mediator Ready “commended both parties for what he called ‘considerable progress’ made during the two days of mediation.”

But the territory added: “Some key issues remain outstanding, including general economic increases, term of the agreement, and job security issues.

“Mr Ready has imposed a media blackout until his binding recommendations are released. He said he will endeavour to complete his report in approximately 30 days.”

That means neither the media nor the workers involved are likely to know the proposals currently on the table, or the eventual outcome, until Ready is fully satisfied, has completed a report, and both sides have – as they now must – accepted the outcome he proposes.

There was no word on a separate strike involving NWT Power Corporation workers, which was also due to begin first thing on Monday.

Mediation for the power corporation and the union was not scheduled to continue until Tuesday.